Discovery Underway in Paraquat MDL Bellwether Claims Selected For Early Trial Dates

Plaintiff depositions for the first 16 bellwether Paraquat MDL claims are expected to be completed by the end of March 2022.

After selecting a small group of Paraquat MDL bellwether claims that will be eligible for a series of early trial dates expected to begin by the end of the year, the parties are moving forward with case-specific discovery, including depositions of each plaintiff over the next two months.

There are currently about 600 Paraquat lawsuits pending in the federal court system, each involving similar allegations that Syngenta and Chevron U.S.A. failed to adequately warn users that they may develop Parkinson’s disease after regularly spraying, mixing, transporting or otherwise handling the toxic herbicide.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in the litigation, cases brought in U.S. District Courts nationwide are currently centralized before U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel in the Southern District of Illinois, as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation, where a series of four bellwether trials are scheduled to be held between November 2022 and the end of 2023, to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the claims.

Earlier this month, Judge Rosenstengel identified 16 Paraquat MDL bellwether claims that will serve as these early test cases, including eight lawsuits selected by plaintiffs and eight selected by defendants.

On January 14, Special Master Randi-S. Ellis issued a report and recommendations (PDF), which outlines the plan for completing case-specific discovery in the cases. Ellis recommends that the Court adopt a Plaintiff’s Assessment Questionnaire and Plaintiff’s Fact Sheet (PFS), which would be completed no later than February 1, 2022. The parties would then submit a schedule of deposition dates, with the goal of completing substantially all Plaintiffs’ depositions by March 15, and a deadlines for all to be complete by March 31.

The Court has previously established that all fact discovery and expert depositions must be completed by June 17, with dispositive motions, challenges to the admissibility of expert witness testimony or summary judgment motions due before July 1.

A final pre-trial conference is currently scheduled to take place on October 27, with a series of Paraquat bellwether trials set to begin on November 15, 2022, March 13, 2023, June 12, 2023 and September 18, 2023.

While the outcome of these bellwether trials will not have any binding impact on other plaintiffs, they are expected to greatly influence any Paraquat settlement offers the manufacturers may make to avoid each case later being remanded back for separate trial dates in U.S. District Courts nationwide.

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